All Souls Day
Filipinos remember the departed on All Saints' Day at a cemetery in Manila Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

As Halloween draws to a close for another year, many cultures around the world are still marking the days of the dead – the Day of the Dead and All Souls' Day. But what are they and where did they come from?

What is the Day of the Dead Dia de los Muertos?

The Day of the Dead is marked in Latin countries to honour the souls of the dead. It is a national holiday in some countries, marked on 2 November, and it is widely celebrated in Mexico where the holiday originated. In 2008, the celebration was marked as a major cultural tradition by UNESCO.

The celebration can be traced back thousands of years to pre-Columbian rituals to remember the deceased, as well as an Aztec festival. Before Spanish colonisation in the 16th century, it was celebrated at the beginning of summer, but gradually became incorporated into the Christian celebrations of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.

Traditions associated with the Day of the Dead include building private altars to honour the dead and decorating them with sugar skulls and marigolds. Many leave gifts by graves, such as the favourite foods of those who have died.

What is All Saints' Day?

Marked on 1 November, All Saints' Day is celebrated by Anglicans and Roman Catholics to remember all saints. Christians have celebrated saints and martyrs since the 4th century, but it was made official for the first time in 609 AD, when Pope Boniface IV stated all martyrs should be celebrated on the Feast of All Holy Martyrs in May.

Pope Gregory IV extended the holiday to include all saints in 837 AD, renaming the tradition the Feast of All Saints. The date was moved from May to 1 November and it is still celebrated on this date today.

What is All Souls' Day?

All Souls' Day takes place on 2 November, the day after All Saints' Day. It is marked by Christians to pray for the souls of the dead so they can leave purgatory and go to heaven. According to Catholic belief, prayer can cleanse the dead of their sins so they can enter heaven. Another name for the day is the Feast of All Souls.

The holiday is more prevalent in Catholic communities in Europe, but it is marked around the world. The celebration is seen as the equivalent of the Day of the Dead celebrations in some Latin countries.